- THE CONTINUING CONTROVERSY OVER MANDATORY STUDENT FEES
- FIRST AMENDMENT GOVERNS KENTUCKY STATE UNIVERSITY
- A NEW ATTACK ON KEG PARTIES: BUT IS IT LEGAL?
- THE CHICO STATE LAWSUIT: IS ILLEGALLY SERVING ALCOHOL UNFAIR COMPETITION?
- ANOTHER SENSELESS CAMPUS DEATH
- THE RESPONSE TO ALCOHOL DEATH AT CHICO STATE
Newsletter > September 2001 > "ANOTHER SENSELESS CAMPUS DEATH"
ANOTHER SENSELESS CAMPUS DEATH
Timothy M. Burke, Manley & Burke
On January 27, 2001, 19-year old Seth Korona at tended, along with perhaps 400 other students, a Theta Chi rush party at Indiana University. A week later he was dead. During the party, Korona performed a handstand on a beer barrel while drinking from the barrel’s tap. Within minutes he fell backwards, slamming his head against the side of a metal door frame, knocking himself unconscious. He recovered consciousness, complained of a headache, but refused to go to the hospital until the next day. The hospital, according to published reports, initially suspected Korona had meningitis, a condition causing fluids to develop around the brain and spinal cord. It wasn’t until two days after he was admitted that it was discovered he had a skull fracture. By that time, Korona was in a coma from which he never recovered.
The Monroe County Prosecutor opted not to pursue criminal charges against anyone in spite of the fact that someone, perhaps several people, purchased four kegs of beer, someone prepared alcohol-laced “pledge punch” and apparently the chapter made the alcohol available to anyone at the party whether they were of legal drinking age or not. The University has filed charges against at least 25 students for violating campus alcohol and other rules.
The Korona family has retained legal counsel who has given notice of his intent to file suit against Indiana University, the President of Theta Chi Fraternity and Bloomington Hospital. Following a press report that an off-duty Indiana State Trooper worked security at the party, Korona’s attorney said he will add the Indiana State Police to the list.
It remains to be seen whether or not a lawsuit against any of the potential defendants can succeed. This case is complicated by the fact that had Korona gotten prompt, correct medical attention, he may not have died. However, if reports are accurate that this chapter had a history of problems related to the misuse of alcohol, it will strengthen the plaintiffs case. Published reports indicate that in 1989, Theta Chi was “nearly kicked off campus” for a series of violations. Michael Gordon, the Dean of Students in 1989, said at the time “usually a university expels when someone is killed or is in a coma. We don’t want to wait until someone is in a coma.” In 1998, the fraternity was suspended when police found 175 cases of beer in the chapter house, along with 30 bottles of vodka. In response to Korona’s death, both the University and Theta Chi suspended the chapter.
Seth Korona’s death at Indiana University, Adrian Heideman’s death at Cal State-Chico, Scott Krueger’s death at MIT were all needless deaths. Each was an enormous tragedy for the families involved. Each brought substantial disrepute to the fraternity chapters involved. The responsibility for these deaths will, for the rest of their lives, be with the individuals who purchased the alcohol and the fraternity officers who knew about the illegal use of alcohol but did nothing to stop it. But at least those individuals have lives in front of them. They will all spend a significant part of those lives dealing with the legal consequences of their actions and the lawsuits that grow out of them.